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Jessica Kerckhoffs (promotion date: 24 March 2003)

Synthetic receptors based on Hydrogen bonded assemblies

Interview: 24 March 2003

Jessica Kerckhoffs

I have been working on the synthesizing of receptors for specific bonding to for example a medicine. These receptors are all made of 9 building blocks that are linked by Hydrogen bonds and can have different sidechains. These sidechains and the combination of different ones give the group of blocks its functionality. I used 4 types of building blocks so that I could make 20 different groups of 9 blocks. The library that consisted of the properties of these 20 groups is the main product of my project.

Can you describe the subject of your research in a couple of sentences?
I have been working on the synthesizing of receptors for specific bonding to for example a medicine. These receptors are all made of 9 building blocks that are linked by Hydrogen bonds and can have different sidechains. These sidechains and the combination of different ones give the group of blocks its functionality. I used 4 types of building blocks so that I could make 20 different groups of 9 blocks. The library that consisted of the properties of these 20 groups is the main product of my project.

What kind of applications could you think of, for these groups?
I already mentioned that these groups bind very specifically to only one type of molecule. This property can be used to follow a medicine in the body of a patient, for example. You can do that by binding a radioactive or a fluorescent group to one of the sidechains for localization. But the stage of application is not reached yet, in this research. For example, my groups can still only exist in ethanol and for normal use the will have to be inserted in water.

How did you find this PhD-position?
By applying. I did my Master's studies at the University of Leiden and when I graduated I applied for a PhD-position here. I was hired and offered the choice between three types of research. This is the one I chose. I did not really have any concrete long term expectations of what it would be like. In research in general you just proceed step by step and you do not think about the next one until you finished the current part of your investigation.

Did you like the group you worked with?
Yes I did. It was a big group and about half of the people were foreigners. That way there will always be a lot of people you get along with quite well. On my project I collaborated with 4 other PhD-students, with one of them very closely. Every six months we had to present a report and we did that together.

What are you going to do after you are finished?
I have a post-doc position in Warwick, England. I have always liked England and the quality of their research is very good. I am going to work on a bio-anorganic project. The goal is to bind metal complexes to DNA. That way it bends a bit and the cell stops replicating. If you can control this process, it an be used for research into cells and maybe for a medicine.